Structure and benchmark observations about Viacom’s legal department

Practical Law, May 2011 at 80, interviews Michael Fricklas, the General Counsel of Viacom. Several points pertinent to law department operations come from that interview.

Most strikingly, the $13.5 billion entertainment company has “approximately 240” lawyers. At nearly 20 lawyers for every billion dollars of revenue, Viacom would top the charts for that metric. Possibly the contracting function, which dominates in such an agreement-intensive industry, swells the ranks of the department. Possibly there are groups of lawyers overseas who are paid much less than their US counterparts. Perhaps compliance lawyers are plentiful and included in the rolls of the law department.

The interview also mentions that the department has “14 lawyers at the corporate level, including two Deputy General Counsel.” Whether all 14 of them report to Fricklas isn’t said, but if the dozen report to the Deputies, then who reports to Fricklas? If they all report to Fricklas, that is a daunting span of control.

From the third fact disclosed by the interview we can infer more. “At the divisional level, four Divisional General Counsel have dual-reporting lines: to me in corporate and also within their business units.” Thus the department has a decentralized reporting layout, at least in part. It would be interesting to see an org chart for Viacom’s legal function.

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